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What Do You Want Most from Your Oncologist?

Recently, I had my six-month checkup with my oncologist. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve had five oncologists. Not my fault. Just sayin’. I’m not that difficult a patient. Trust me. I’m not. It’s eight years since my breast cancer diagnosis. Eight years since the shit hit the fan. Eight years since Dear Hubby and I walked into that first oncology appointment wondering WTF was in store for us.

This time around, my appointment fell one day after the date of my diagnosis eight years ago. One day. Talk about adding a surreal touch. Eerie.

I am happy and beyond grateful to report that I’m still NED.

My oncologist and I had our usual conversation. I’m sorta bored, happily so, by our repetitive-in-nature sort of discussions. He probably is too. Sometimes I wonder if he sits there thinking, come on, lady, enough with the questions; I’ve got more pressing things to do yet today.

In a nutshell, I’ve got issues. I’ve got more than my share of collateral damage. But I’m still here and as Dear Hubby often jokingly (sorta) reminds us both, we’re still on our own power.

But I am still pissed off about the whole cancer shit storm that has ensued and changed my life and my family’s lives for good. So yes, I’m still NED, still grateful and still pissed off. But mostly, I am grateful.

Still NED, still grateful & still pissed off

I am allowed to be grateful and pissed off. So are you.

After I read Martha’s recent post, I love my oncologist, but…, I started thinking about the relationship I have with my oncologist, and I started wondering what your relationships are like with yours. I hope you’ll share about yours with a comment below.

Specifically, what do you want most from your oncologist, and do we sometimes expect too much from them?

As Martha confided with us in her post, she knows patients who have close relationships with their oncologists. Some exchange hugs on every visit. Some discuss families, jobs and vacations. Some share photos of loved ones with each other. Heck, some have photos taken with their oncologists. She acknowledged that she was sorta envious of those relationships.

I mean, who doesn’t want a special relationship like that?

Honestly, I guess I don’t.

What do I want?

I want my oncologist to be knowledgeable, competent, compassionate, respectful of my viewpoints and yes, personable, to a degree anyway. I expect eye contact. I want to be listened to. I want validation. I want help managing long-term side effects. I want honesty, integrity and all the usual stuff like that.

I want these things from any doctor I see, don’t you?

Though our relationship is far from perfect, I have these things with my present oncologist. I did not with all the others.

One more thing I’ll share with you, my Dear Readers, is the fact that I have never mentioned to any of my oncologists that I have a blog or that I’ve written three books related to breast cancer. I’ve never mentioned it to my primary care physician either. Although, I likely will tell her at some point as she was recently diagnosed with breast cancer herself. But then again, maybe I won’t.

Why the heck not?

Maybe it’s because I’m an introvert. In all honestly, I have never felt comfortable with any doctor. Ever. This probably has more to do with me. I don’t like it when others are in my space (for lack of a better way to put it.) And when you have breast cancer, saying doctors are in your space is an understatement.

Maybe I prefer to keep some things private. Maybe being so vulnerable physically makes me want to shield and protect the real me, the inner me. Or maybe it’s because I don’t think they’d be interested in reading my blog anyway. But then, there are some wonderful docs out there in Social Media Land who do read my stuff online. Heck, they even share my stuff now and then. So, I might be wrong.

I guess I just don’t need my oncologist (and other doctors) to know the details of my life outside those cancer center doors. It’s a sort of wall, I suppose, a separation of lives.

I don’t need or even want my oncologist to be my friend; I need him to be my oncologist.

What about you?

What do you expect from your oncologist (and other doctors), and do you think we sometimes expect too much? 

How would you describe the relationship you have with your oncologist and/or other doctors? How much do you share about your personal life?

If you have metastatic disease, what matters most to you, and how has your relationship with your oncologist changed, or has it?

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What Do You Want Most from Your Oncologist?




Stephanie May

Wednesday 22nd of September 2021

I am with you Nancy, I want to be heard, listened to and validated I recently had my femur fracture (from hormonal therapy side effects) Nothing showed up on 2 x-rays 12 days later I got an MRI confirming the fracture and 4 days later I finally got surgery 25 days total, and I have been through this before but it was my rib, painful yes but nothing compared to this Unfortunately this is my experience


Thursday 23rd of September 2021

Stephanie, Yes, being heard and listened to is so important and is what validation is all about. I'm sorry to hear about your fracture. Too bad it took so long to get things figured out and then addressed, as it sounds quite painful. Did you have to push for the MRI? I hope you're doing well now and that the healing is going smoothly. Thank you for sharing.

Kim Nozewski

Friday 12th of June 2020

Hi Nancy, I've had MBC for a little more than 3 years now. My oncologist listens to me all the time and if I say somethings not right, he will immediately schedule the scans to see what's going on. I'm on Gemzar now and this chemo is slowly killing me. He had to lower the dosage twice for me. I was hospitalized twice with the higher doses. I always want the truth about the cancer, and he tells me the truth and always listens to me. So for that, I'm thankful. My body however, is very tired and weak and I fear I don't have much longer. What have you done outside of oncologist suggestions? Thank you for listening. Love your blogs. Started seeing them through a cancer support group recently. Thanks again.


Thursday 18th of June 2020

Kim, I'm glad you have an oncologist who listens to you. Truth telling matters so much. I'm sorry you're feeling so tired and weak. MBC treatment is brutal. Thank you so much for reading and for commenting too.

Sue Dobbs

Friday 1st of March 2019

Thanks, Nancy! You get it.

Beth L. Gainer

Tuesday 29th of May 2018

Hi Nancy,

I'm so very grateful you are still NED and that your oncologist meets your needs. It's so difficult to find a good doctor that meets all our needs, but it is possible.

I want to write about my oncologist someday because I feel he's special. The first thing I look for in an oncologist is competence, validation (like you say), and caring about me as a patient and a person, two different things. Oh, and he/she has to have excellent communication (including listening) skills. I also don't need a friend in my oncologist, but I feel he's always in my corner.


Wednesday 9th of May 2018

Lisa it is right that trust is something that every patient seek from their oncologist. Otherwise, it will be very hard to end up well. I am very sorry for your Lisa. But god will be always with you!

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